WELCOME TO GENDER MONTH!
5 weeks of expanding the mind and beautifying the world with Queer/Trans/Intersex fabulousness!
I’ve been studying and living my queer culture for over 30 years. There is much wisdom and beauty within it, great artistic expression and brilliant scholarship, small intimate stories and large sweeping narratives. This series is rooted in my community and meant to bring into greater light some of the basic truths of queerness in the world around us.
Since the 1990’s there’s been a noticeable uptick in queer scholarship in the areas of history, science and more. Not surprisingly, holding an outsider perspective lends itself to seeing through the dominant culture’s deeply held prejudices in numerous fields. Queer scholars have the tendency to expose what is and always has been in nature, in society, in history, in humans, with less filter and a queer lens. This leads us to what is truthfull, while teaching us more about LGBTQI2S+ falsehoods and how and why they’ve been perpetuated in our current culture. Understanding how these larger societal systems function and getting current on this kind of scholarship helps us mediate between what is real and what we and our kids have been and are being taught in the world at large.
Understanding how these larger societal systems function and getting current on this kind of scholarship helps us mediate between what is real and what we and our kids have been and are being taught in the world at large.
The foundations of my gender work are the same ones that reverberate through all of my work, whether it explicitly addresses gender or not. Holistic, nature-based, rooted in self and community love, truth speaking, IPOC/LGBTQI2S+ centered, fully inclusive and meant for practical daily application.
I began gathering resources and sharing my gender work for kids and families in 2010 with my Gender Now Coloring Book. I wanted a solid go-to resource that I could use with my kids that would also be valuable for other families. It’s loaded with information. TONS of information! (There are a lot of games and play too!)
I’ll be teasing out some of the resources and details of Gender Now as we move through this series. I just have to say, everything is jammed with love! I hope this serves as a call to more and more truth and love centering and listening to the LGBTQI2S+ community, especially Indigenous and People of Color (IPOC). Our gorgeousness abounds! We must share OUT!
What’s in store each Week
Each of the next 5 weeks will focus on a different theme: Nature, Multicultural Awareness, Indigenous, and US history, and finally the Gender Wheel. The series is appropriate for grownups and young adults, but is ultimately about bringing greater awareness and support to our kids and families.
Each week begins with an introduction to books by queer scholars and goes on to include the following sections: Imagine for a moment, What is commonly taught and thought, Back to the truth and Practical daily application with 4 areas where you can put truth to action. There’s also coloring pages, children’s books, scholarly books, videos and more.
A Holistic frame is used throughout the series. Mind is not separate from body, and sexuality is not separated from gender. This perspective is developed through the course of the series culminating in the Gender Wheel. Consequently, gender is seen relative to the LGBTQI2S+ community.
This series is just a beginning and is not meant to be a sole resource. It is a glimpse into a fraction of the research I’ve done. It is explicitly meant as a doorway to further study and play. The more we lift up and use the brilliant scholarship from our own community, the sooner truth will support us in creating a more equitable world of love and respect.
WELCOME TO NATURE WEEK!
After 10 years of research, Bruce Bagemihl’s Biological Exuberance/Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity was published in 1999. Nature/International Journal of Science said, “This book should surely become the standard reference work for research on the topics covered.” It gathers in once place a staggering array of over 300 mammals and birds, documenting same-sex partnering and extensive gender diversity.
“The animal world—right now, here on Earth—is brimming with countless gender variations and shimmering sexual possibilities: entire lizard species that consist only of females who reproduce by virgin birth and also have sex with each other; or the multigendered society of the Ruff, with four distinct categories of male birds, some of whom court and mate with one another; or female Spotted Hyenas and Bears who copulate and give birth through their ‘penile’ clitorides, and male Greater Rheas who possess ‘vaginal’ phalluses (like females of their species) and raise young in two-father families; or the vibrant transsexualities of coral reef fish, and the dazzling intersexualities of gynandromorphs and chimeras. In their quest for ‘post-modern’ patterns of gender and sexuality, human beings are simply catching up with the species that have preceded us in evolving sexual and gender diversity—and the aboriginal cultures that have recognized this.”
In 2004, Joan Roughgarden’s Evolution’s Rainbow/Diversity, Gender and Sexuality in Nature and People was published. Nature/International Journal of Science weighed in again saying, “As a compendium of information on sex and gender diversity in the natural world, Roughgarden’s is the richest and most authoritative book available,” making it a perfect companion to Bagemihl’s book.
“Roughgarden’s compilation shows wide variations of gender expression among vertebrates, demonstrating that several stereotypes about gender are simply incorrect, she maintains. For example animals aren’t just male or female; individuals can be both male and female at the same time or be one or the other at different times. Males are not necessarily bigger than females, and in many species, it’s not the females who give birth but rather males that incubate eggs in a pouch. And like the Bluegill Sunfish, many species have three or more genders.”
And the scholarship continues. These two books don’t reflect the work of one person, but literally hundreds of people working in their field.
A 2009 study says, “Same-sex behavior is a nearly universal phenomenon in the animal kingdom, common across species, from worms to frogs to birds, concludes a new review of existing research.”(1)
IMAGINE FOR A MOMENT…
Take the time to try this on. Stop and imagine that everything you see around you in the natural world is queer/trans/intersex, similar to humans. Every plant, every animal, every insect and bird, flora and fauna alike.
Imagine the natural, exuberant expression of everything, visible everywhere you look. Feel yourself as an integral part of all of this. Couple this with the idea that all of this diversity and expression is appreciated and valued as important and necessary. Nature and all that it is, is seen as perfectly natural.
‘Queer’ is no longer other. Queer! is everything.
Finally, imagine growing up and being taught this in school. Imagine your parents, family and friends speaking casually about the queer/trans/intersex-ness of all nature as if it’s normal and necessary and encouraging you to learn about it too.
WHAT IS COMMONLY TAUGHT AND THOUGHT
At this time and for a long time, Darwinism is the name of the game. Charles Robert Darwin (1809-1882) is considered the father of evolution and described as one of the most influential figures in human history. The impact of his work cannot be denied or diminished, despite the fact that there is a lack of evidence for most of his theories.
Beyond his basic thoughts about evolution, he included that nature is inherently competitive, the purpose of sex is procreation, females of a species are small and coy, while males of a species are large and aggressive. Anything and everything falling outside of these parameters is aberrant according to Darwin. And coupled with his belief that man evolved from apes was the belief that the white race was the most evolved thus superior, with all other races falling in graduated ranks below. (This last one continues to be knocked down through genetics that state there is only one race. All humans are equal.)
Now I don’t pretend to know everything. In fact, what I’m sure of is that there is still much to learn and synthesize in ways that I cannot know, possibly ever. But I do believe there is much that can be known. For example, it is always valuable to look at what is, especially when it comes to that kind of influence attributed to one person. Looking at Darwin’s context, what his theories explicitly and implicitly foster and/or promote and how they’ve impacted our LGBTQI2S+ community can be known and can shed light on a larger perspective of how Darwin’s theories still function in our society and why.
Here are some extremely general sweeps to place Darwin in context. He predominantly lived and worked during what is called the Victorian age in England, 1837-1901. This era is known for hypocrisy and repression, sexual restraint and a strict and limiting moral code. It is also a time of great transformation, including a shift from a highly religious social frame to a more secular one. Until 1861 homosexuality was an offence punishable by death. Slavery was legal until 1833.
Darwin’s theory of evolution was seen by some as a threat to traditional creationist beliefs. Still it was widely accepted by the 1870’s by the scientific community and a majority of the educated public, marking a secular shift in consciousness at the time.
Queen Victoria reigned and is the namesake for the era, however the British Empire was a patriarchy and sought to expand across the globe using violence, particularly in Asia and Africa.
Some of the fundamentals of Darwin’s theories will sound familiar as they’ve either been subsumed into Western culture or rise from it. These beliefs can become invisible, creating an implicit back drop that constantly promotes and supports the patriarchal Western Culture from the inside out.
These include but are not limited to, man over nature. Women are inferior. Man over woman. Nature is competitive, not cooperative. Survival of the fittest. White supremacy. Sex is for procreation and the survival of the species. There is only male and female. Everything always partners in heterosexual pairs.
On LGBTQI2S+ Community:
The impact on our community begins with the erasure of queer/trans/intersex experience and bodies from nature through the exclusive focus on heterosexual males and females. Our invisibility makes it easier to control the dominant narrative about us, maintain judgment, as well as avoid talking about bodies and sex. When queer/trans/intersex experience and bodies do come to light they are positioned outside of what is considered normal and positive, because sex without the possibility of procreation is considered fundamentally wrong, even unnatural.
BACK TO THE TRUTH and PRACTICAL, DAILY APPLICATION
The more we look at nature and how it’s talked about the more we can see the layers of impact Darwinism has had on science, Western society, and our community in particular. In contrast, Joan Roughgarden’s work upends much of Darwin’s impact by exploring the prevalence and consequent value of queer/trans/intersex expression and bodies in nature, while framing them within the context of the natural world as largely cooperative.
Her perspectives and those of many more like her, propose that there is another, more authentic way to include all expressions of gender and sexuality throughout the natural world in ways that do not encourage dominance and prejudice.
Joan Roughgarden’s work upends much of Darwin’s impact by exploring the prevalence and consequent value of queer/trans/intersex expression and bodies in nature, while framing them within the context of the natural world as largely cooperative.
- Challenging Darwin: A new book argues that diversity undermines sexual selection theory
- Nudging Darwin over the rainbow / Nature is diverse. There are gay sheep and lesbian lizards. A transgendered Stanford biologist tells all.
- And her book, The Genial Gene/Deconstructing Darwinian Selfishness
Here are 4 areas where you can put truth to action:
- 1. Think differently. Open up to the possibility of thinking outside of Darwinism. This includes thinking beyond opposites and binaries, beyond stereotypes and generalities. Take time to look at nuance, greater and greater inclusion, what erasure if any is functioning and if and how context influences things. Try looking at things from new and larger perspectives. For example, it’s not about ‘understanding or explaining gender.’ It’s about looking at everything and seeing how gender is naturally expressed everywhere all the time around us.
- 2. Speak truth. Open up to new ways of speaking that reflect an expanded understanding of nature and gender. For example, stop saying ‘boys and girls’ and instead say people or kids. Become aware of more and more gender assumptions. For example, excusing boys for physically rough behavior while assuming or encouraging girls to be less physical or physically smaller. And so on.
- 3. Interrupt falsehoods. Speaking truth is awesome, but it has to be coupled with interrupting untruths or it has no power. We must also take the time to say what is not true and acknowledge that almost everything around us is saying these untrue things about nature and gender, but that doesn’t make them anymore true. If we don’t model this for our kids, no one will. We can embrace the truth about nature now. Some simple examples are kid movies. Speaking the truth about Clown Fish, bears, snails, whales, and so on. Snails are not girls or boys. Some lizards are lesbians. Some animals are both girl and boy.
4. Educate toward truth/children’s books and adult resources. These are what I consider my absolute basics to date.
- Gender Now Coloring Book
- Download a few coloring pages from Gender Now – (2 pages, 2MB)
- They, She, He, Me: Free to Be!
- What Makes A Baby and Sex is a Funny Word
- Biological Exuberance/Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity (book is sexually explicit)
- Evolution’s Rainbow/Diversity, Gender and Sexuality in Nature and People
Maya Gonzalez is a ferociously quirky queer femme with a deep love for daily drag and dress up. She’s also an artist, progressive educator and award-winning children’s book illustrator and author. She has been a close ally of the trans community for over 30 years and her partner is trans. Her work focuses on art and story as powerful tools of reclamation and transformation both personally and culturally. Currently her primary tool of activism is creating and publishing radical children’s books that tell the truth of who we are and what we can be. She invites grown-ups and kids alike to do the same through her online school and free kids program that teach a holistic approach to creating and publishing children’s books.
- Gender Now Coloring Book